SpaceFest Report #2

By Phil Plait | August 18, 2007 12:37 am

Oh cripes, am I tired.

I got a nice night’s sleep, the first in a week or so. So that was cool. There’s a Starbucks in the hotel, so I got (barely) decent coffee, and a chocolate muffin that had perhaps 37 ounces of oil in it, but was yummy. I made my way to the conference, and I missed a talk I wanted to see, but was able to get into Seth Shostak’s talk. Seth is an old friend, and astronomer who works on SETI (and who does the Are We Alone radio show on which I do the Brains on Vacation segment), and he gave a talk on when we’ll detect aliens for the first time (summary: about 20 years from now if they exist, and his numbers are pretty convincing). Seth is an excellent speaker, and if you need a speaker for an event you should contact him. He was really funny, and had the audience laughing quite a bit.

My Moon hoax talk was at 12:30, and there were a couple of tech glitches but nothing major (I’ve had major before, so anything short of that is good). It went well, though a little long (shocker) and the audience clearly had fun. They were Apollo fans! So they were a great group. I went to the exhibit hall to sign copies of my (increasingly aged) book, and got lots of questions which is always fun.

At the other end of the exhibit hall were the astronauts! So I went over and mostly just listened to them talk to their fans, and I must say, it was very cool. These are great guys who did incredible things, and the stories are fantastic. I chatted with Rusty Schweickart (Apollo 9) about preventing asteroids from hitting the Earth, a topic he is an expert on. I was surprised to learn that moving some asteroids out of the way can be very easy — Apophis, which may hit us in 2036, can be moved out of harm’s way by adding millimeters per hour to its velocity! That can be achieved practically by blowing on it. I will definitely be reading (and writing) more on this.

I also chatted briefly with lots of others: Jack Lousma, Walt Cunningham, Charlie Duke again, Ed Mitchell (Ed literally kicked Bart Sibrel out of his house, bless his heart). I hung out by Buzz Aldrin’s table and listened to him regale Carolyn Porco with stories about a novel he wrote, and we were eating it up.

I hooked up with some folks for dinner, and then afterwards spent about two hours at the hotel bar swapping stories.

It was fun. I mean, it was fun. I miss being able to do this! It’s been a while.

The best part: I have all day tomorrow, and part of Sunday here too. Cool. And even better: in two weeks I’m going on a cruise with James Randi and some skeptics to Alaska (you’d better believe I’ll be posting about that while it happens, too).

I have some fun pix, but I’m too tired to work on them now. Beddiebye time for me. I’ll post them tomorrow when I get a chance.


Comments (18)

  1. Chip

    Wow. That’s great. You know me; I can blab on and on and sometimes even use some big tech words, but that report just turns me into an appreciative kid again. Wow, and thanks for the look inside SpaceFest! :)

  2. Tim G

    Looking forward to those pictures…

    I think you could combine evacuation with deflection to counter some asteroid threats. Say an Apophis-sized asteroid is detected a few weeks in advance with New York City’s name on it. You may not have time to completely deflect it away from the earth, but perhaps you could deflect it to the Catskills and prepare evacuation of the entire area. Those with property in the mountains would need just compensation, but the costs would be far less than had New York City been destroyed. Moving impact areas across borders may cause a furor.

    As far as the cruise goes…I wonder if the aurora borealis will be visible. I think we are far from the solar maximum, but early September seems like a good time of year.

  3. Tom Epps

    Memories…I met astronauts Grissom and Chaffee when I was a kid–three weeks later they were killed by a launch pad fire, and a few years ago I went gaga to meet Buzz at a book-signing for “Return”. BA, I envy you you experiences!

  4. Brown

    Buzz Aldrin was there? How did his face look?

    Damn that Earth gravity! If only Buzz could have visited some place where the gravity was, say, one-sixth of what it is on Earth, he might not have opted for that face lift….

  5. KaiYeves

    Super cool! I just found out that I was in a library building within 48 hours of Neil Tyson, so that’s about as close as I get to doing cool things like this. I’d give anything to meet Aldrin or Shostak! I took an ‘economy’ trip to D.C. a few months ago and ate at Starbucks a lot. The egg salad sandwhiches are pretty decent.

  6. mightymau

    id love to hear your talk! do you have any transcript or audio??

  7. amt

    Tomorrow is Sunday, Phil.

  8. Andy

    I met Walt Cunningham once. He was lecturing on a cruise ship I was on. Nice guy.

    Did Buzz have the bandages off?

  9. I would really like to see a post explaining how this 20 year figure came about. What information, barring the Drake Equation exists to point in that direction. How did we arrive at that figure etc.

  10. You didn’t share the pics with us. Neither of the cruise too. Are you planning ?

  11. Aaron F.

    Apophis, which may hit us in 2036, can be moved out of harm’s way by adding millimeters per hour to its velocity!

    Erm… how does the size of that velocity change compare with the random velocity fluctuations that come from living in the n-body nightmare that we call our solar system?

  12. Quiet_Desperation

    I think I’m more tired.

    I initially read “Spaceface Retort #2”.

    Bed time.

    But maybe one more go at the Bioshock demo…

  13. Quiet_Desperation

    >>> Apophis, which may hit us in 2036,

    I’ll be rooting for the asteroid. Sorry, folks.

  14. Buzz was just on the Howard Stern Show last week. He gave a very good interview, I thought. He had some stories to tell like the time he was stopped on the street by a paparazzo who mistook him for Neil Armstrong.

    I think it is a little odd though, and a tad bit sad that he was promoting a time-share condo company when he was on the show. He mentioned a few times that people should call 888 7GO WINN or something like that to get a free vacation in Orlando (I think it was).

    Howard also played a clip of Buzz on Da Ali G Show. Ali asked him what it was like to be the second man to walk on the Moon after Louis Armstrong. Hillarious! Buzz gently corrected him. I’m not sure if he understood the joke of Ali G or not, but he was kind and gracious throughout the “interview”. I especially liked the part when Buzz corrected Ali’s conjecture that one day we would send a mission to walk on the Sun. Buzz said we wouldn’t want to go there because it is too hot. Ali said he knows the Sun is hot, but we would go there in the winter. Lol. Talk about bad astronomy.

  15. Since I was also there, you can look at the pics I took while you wait for Phil to post his :)

  16. KaiYeves

    Apophis, 2036. I hope to be finnished with my surveys of you earthlings by that time and on my way back to Vega. 😉
    Actually, I hope to be on the moon and out of harm’s way.

  17. All of this reporting on Spacefest and you didn’t even mention the artists or the art exhibition.


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